Saying “Thank You” to Employees Is Worth It’s Weight In Gold


In the business world, we often hear that giving pay increases and other monetary gains is not the answer to increasing workplace engagement, productivity, job satisfaction, and a whole host of other factors.  Conventional wisdom has been that providing encouragement and praise is just as good as the tangible rewards.  Now, emerging research shows that this really may be the case.

A study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science indicates that when people are provided with intangible, or symbolic, resources such as praise, information, or affection they will be more inclined to return the favor with concrete resources such as money, work, or effort (Matsumura & Ohtsubo, 2012).  There are challenges to a study such as this, but as Matsumura and Ohtsubo point out, the findings are supported by another study from 2008 by Izuma, Saito, and Sadato in which the brain shows response via fMRI to these intangible resources in the same way that it does to tangible resources.

What does this mean for leaders and workers?  It certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy getting tangible, or concrete, resources or rewards! However, it does indicate that organizations would do well to ensure that they let employees know how much they are appreciated through other intangible means, and they should research and understand better the science behind what makes us happy and feel as though we want to reciprocate.

References

Izuma, K., Saito, D.N., & Sadato, N. (2008). Processing of social and monetary rewards in the human striatum. Neuron, 58, 284-294. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2008.03.020

Matsumura, A., & Ohtsubo, Y. (2012). Praise Is Reciprocated With Tangible Benefits: Social Exchange Between Symbolic Resources and Concrete Resources. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(2), 250-256. doi: 10.1177/1948550611417016

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“You’re Not That Great: A Motivational Speech”


I recently had the good fortune to see a share through a couple of the psychology LinkedIn groups I belong to, and after watching the video, I felt compelled to share this absolutely fantastic TEDx video. 

The fact is, we have created an environment that says we are all special and should all expect to be treated as special and nothing less.  Dr. Daniel Crosby explains his presentation best as “a punch in the mouth more than a pat on the back,” at least for those that are used to thinking they are smart, special, and/or better than anyone else. In the presentation, he shows some of the pitfalls of this thinking and the associated behaviors in a very real, down to earth, enjoyable format.  I highly recommend checking out the video, and please feel free to leave comments!  Enjoy!

 

When and where does choice end?


As with any new year there are new laws going in to effect around the globe.  Today I managed to stumble across an article on CBC News that was posted through Twitter by @SocialPsych called, aptly enough, “Spain’s tough anti-smoking law takes effect.” As someone who smoked for many years, but thankfully quit about 7 years ago, I am always intrigued to see the social trends in smoking, and even more so I am interested to see how governments, especially outside of the United States, handle it.  When I was in the US Navy and had the chance to travel the world, I found that the acceptance of smoking was quite common.  Anyone and everyone, and for that matter just about anywhere, was smoking.  Of course, so was I so it was very convenient.  Now, as a non-smoker and a father of a small child, I am more aware of smoking and of course have my own dislikes revolving around it.  Like most non-smokers, I hate walking in to a building and having to walk through a cloud of smoke as the smokers congregate outside of the door to “burn one” for a minute.  I also dislike going to restaurants where smoking is still allowed; there’s just nothing enjoyable about eating my food while breathing in smoke.  Even being in a line somewhere with a person or two smoking around me can really cause me some irritation, especially when I have my wife and son with me.  But with all of that being said, I think I have a hard time agreeing with the government trying to control things in a manner such as Spain.

While I think we all agree that smoking is unhealthy, and lays an undue burden on those that are non-smokers, I’m not sure that the government, any government, stepping in and banning it makes much sense.  If it is found to be such a nuisance and health hazard, shouldn’t it just be made illegal?  If not, then I think there should be slightly better choices made for how to deal with smokers and associated problems.  As one commenter said on the aforementioned article explains, it might be a better idea to impose certain penalties for being a smoker instead of trying to outright ban it.  A reasonable penalty could include something such as higher insurance rates, even when on a group policy; this should be considerably higher, and there should definitely be testing yearly to verify.  What about restaurants, parks, and other public facilities?  I think it should be the choice of those that own the business as to whether or not they allow smoking, and as human beings with an independent brain we should be able to make our own choice as to whether or not we are comfortable in that environment.  This is of course with one caveat: places that allow smoking should be required to post visibly and publicly that they allow smoking.  This would be either on the outside of the facility, or on the sign.  This would save those of us who don’t want to patron a place like that from even having to park and get out to determine if they allow smoking or not.  If their business suffers because of allowing smoking, then they would need to make the conscious decision whether or not to continue to allow smoking in the facility.

Obviously I don’t believe that smoking is a good decision, but nonetheless a decision it still is.  While governments have the responsibility to make sure that the financial burden falls on the correct parties, and that people follow laws, I’m just not sure that I can personally support the idea of taking away a decision from someone on something that is considered legal.  As I said before, if it is truly considered to be as dangerous as we all know it is, outlaw it completely and put it in the same category as any other drug.  Otherwise discourage it, educate on it, place warnings on packages, and penalize for it as a poor health decision, but don’t try to control it if it is still a choice.

Organizational Teams Show Parallels to Facebook


I just finished an interesting article from Twitter called Deric Bownds’ MindBlog: You’ve got to have (150) friends…, and I have to admit that I use my Facebook for personal contact and to stay in touch with people that I can’t otherwise stay in face-to-face contact with.  I can also agree that I have people that at one time I was in close relationships with, but that over time they have become a part of the outside ring of my 150+ friends.  But even further I started to think about the idea that is pointed out in the essay referenced from Robin Dunbar: people can really only have “around 150 close, meaningful relationships both online and off.”  After reading that statement I can’t help thinking to myself that even 150 would be stretching it in most cases; I’m not sure that I’m even close to that number as I sit here right now.  I might have around that on my Facebook, but out of those I really only have a close relationship with about 25 of them.

So what do I propose this has to do with organizational teams?  Let’s look for a moment at the average business unit, division, or team.  How many people belong to that group?  200?  500?  1,500?  Is there any question that with teams and groups this large that there are feelings of being ignored, detached, unheard, or separated by employees, supervisors, and managers alike?  Too often managers and supervisors, and even in many cases employees are expected to build relationships and work together in an environment that is completely counterproductive to that end.  By simply changing the size of teams, I would propose that we could easily improve the functionality and success of teams and groups by simply evaluating the effective size of those groups and teams.  In order for people to develop the sense of closeness and relationship, and even more so caring, about a common cause it must be encouraged through the proper environment.  This is why quick, irregular meetings of regional, national, or international members of teams and groups, or of the leaders of a group or organization are generally ineffective in being productive.  Without regular contact and interaction (and not just by phone and email), you simply can not effectively build relationships and the necessary fight for a shared cause.

I can’t begin to say that this is something that could happen overnight, but I truly believe that this is a concept that needs to be viewed with as much urgency as sales skills and production rates.  Life within business is not so much different than the rest of it elsewhere, so let’s take these lessons and use them to be more productive, successful, and happy.  Along the way, maybe you can make some new close friends…just don’t try to add them all to your Facebook.

The “Someone Else Will Do It” Effect


I hope that everyone had a happy holiday and, for those that celebrate it, a Merry Christmas!  Just before the holidays I posted a blog entry about the “Law of the Few” and the “Stickiness Factor”.  I also mentioned that I in my next article I would be focusing on the “Power of Context”.  As I said previously, I think this topic is so profound that it really needed to be on its own.

When Malcolm Gladwell discusses the “Power of Context” he states that “epidemics are strongly influenced…by the circumstances and conditions and particulars of the environments in which they operate.”  As usual, I immediately begin to think about the implications in the business world.  It strikes me that so many times this point is missed when we set forth to affect change in the workplace.  Things move so quickly in the world today that we often forget that we really need to take the time and ensure that the time and environment are right for initiating a change; this includes launching a new product, a new learning initiative, changing culture, or other major change.  All too often I think we begin moving forward without ensuring that we have the right time and environment, and then cross our fingers and hope that whatever we are trying to accomplish is successful.  How much time and money is wasted with tactics like this?  Taking the extra time and effort initially could increase the chance for success exponentially.

As I think back to my time with a previous organization, I remember conducting interviews and focus groups trying to gain perspective on why things that we were trying to implement weren’t working.  On many occasions, there would be information coming out that would have been crucial for us and others in the organization to know about.  When asked why this information wasn’t brought forward sooner, the most common response was “everyone already knows, and nothing’s changing, so it must not matter,” or “I figured that someone else/my manager/so-and-so said/did something about it.”  Unfortunately I think this is probably a misconception among many employees in many organizations.

The example used in “The Tipping Point” to explain the “Power of Context” is that of Kitty Genovese.  For those that may have forgotten, or never previously heard of it, this is the story of a lady, Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed on two separate occasions inside of a thirty-minute period on her own street, where supposedly 38 people heard and/or saw the incident without anyone calling the police.  The details of this story are highly contested, however I believe that this event was itself the “tipping point” for further study into diffusion of responsibility and the bystander effect.  Essentially this says that people are less likely to help someone in trouble while in a group situation, either because they believe that someone else will better know how to help or they will be embarrassed to help in front of others.  I believe that the same premise happens in our business organizations today.  As I said before, it is my experience that the people on the “front line” of our organizations who are closest to our customers, and those who are closest to the many different issues facing our organizations today, often believe that someone else must have a better solution, or that if it really is a problem or something that should be known it is already known by the right people, or they don’t want to be embarrassed by suggesting something that has already been thought of or for being seen as over-zealous.

Creating an environment that is open and encourages suggestion and communication is important, but based on examples such as this it could be even more important than first thought.  To truly change how we create change in our organizations, we must make it possible to gain real-time, first-hand information and must find some way to encourage that information transfer.